By the time the final seconds of the fourth quarter came around against Baltimore City rival Edmondson on Tuesday, the sluggish first half Poly junior transfer Brandon Murray experienced seemed long ago.
The 6-foot-4 guard more than made up for it with nothing but clutch and net, making a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left to send the visiting No. 4 Engineers to a thrilling 49-48 win over the No. 13 Red Storm.
After two points in the first half, Murray, who transferred to Poly from New York, got going with five points in the third quarter. In the fourth, with the lead changing seven times, he made the difference with 12 of his game-high 19 points.
Poly, with All-Metro junior forward Justin Lewis serving the last of a three-game suspension as a result of a postgame incident following the Engineers’ loss at No. 3 Patterson last Tuesday, improves to 10-5. Edmondson, which led by as many as nine points in the second quarter, is now 13-2.
Murray thought he was the hero when he converted a three-point play with 17 seconds left for a 46-45 advantage, but still had work left when the Red Storm jumped back ahead on Eontae Nelson’s 3 pointer for a 48-46 advantage.
After a quick Poly timeout and then a lengthy delay to determine how much time remained – 11.1 seconds was put on the scoreboard – Engineers coach Sam Brand set up a play for Murray. Point guard Rahim Ali found him on the right side and the win soon followed.
“It felt real good coming out of my hands. I’m always locked in – that’s just it,” he said. “We really missed Justin, but the adversity hit and we just came through. We all knew we were down at halftime, but we push through things like this.”
The Red Storm took hold of the game with a push in the final minutes of the first quarter – getting a second straight three-point play from Marcus Hocker (15 points) and a steal and dunk from Keith Bolden (15 points) with 43 seconds left for an 18-10 lead going into the fourth quarter.
A 3-pointer from Nelson with 1:39 left in the second quarter provided the home team with its biggest lead at 31-22, but the Engineers closed with baskets from Amani Walker and Hassan Massenburg to cut the lead to 31-26 at the break.
The game stayed tight throughout the third quarter with the Red Storm maintaining the lead until Murray hit a jumper just beyond the free-throw line for a 43-42 lead with 5:34 to play. It was the first of the seven leads changes the rest of the way with Murray making the last shot count.
By the end, a couple mistakes proved costly for the Red Storm, which missed all three of its free throws in the fourth quarter, surrendered a couple key rebounds and failed to use a foul it had to give on Poly’s last possession.
“My hat goes off to Poly – it was a good game,” Edmondson coach Darnell Dantzler said. “Baltimore City basketball is what I love and the kids left it all out there on the floor. A couple bad decisions, but me made some big shots down the stretch and they hit big shots down the stretch and they were the team fortunate to come out with the win.”
Just as Dantzler sees this as a learning experience, Poly coach Sam Brand was pleased to see his Engineers handle another hostile environment and execute at the end. Last Tuesday at Patterson, they let a 14-point fourth-quarter lead slip away in a 67-64 loss.
This time was different.
“We didn’t execute what was asked in the huddle last week. At the very end, our point guard did exactly what I asked him, we got the ball exactly where we wanted to and the game ended in our favor,” said Brand. “Seasons are about learning lessons and moving forward. Brandon is an unbelievable player, our team is doing it and I’m exciting moving forward.”